$100 An Hour at Blackjack

I’ve been emailing back and forth with a reader who’s in his mid-fifties and is about to kiss Corporate America goodbye. Because he’s had some success as a card counter recently, the thought occurred to him that it might be fun to become a professional Blackjack player. 

The first thing I told him is that it’s not fun, but it’s certainly satisfying and, under the right circumstances, can be very profitable. Making a living at the Blackjack tables is tough, unless you can put up with smokers, drunks, hustlers, big losses, rude players and casinos that want to toss you out because you’re too good at what you do. If you can deal with all that, it’s fun to play “their” game – their cards, their rules, their dealer – and walk away with “their” $$$.

The way to do it is simple and I’ll prove it right here. The way to keep doing it is more of a problem and although I can give you some ideas on how to survive, it’s really up to you to present yourself in such a way that the casinos will allow you to regularly make a profit at the game.

Proper game selection and an adequate bankroll are key items in the equation. These days, the best opportunities lie in double-deck (DD) games, in my not-so-humble opinion. 

I know of at least 10 casinos in the U.S. that offer very beatable DD games – “beatable” in the sense that they give good penetration, allow decent bet spreads and have fairly good rules.

In my mind, penetration has to be 70 cards (of 104) minimum or 67%. I’ll let the dealer hit soft 17, but I do insist on double on any first two cards and after splitting pairs. Games like this where the dealer stands on soft 17 and late surrender is available do exist, but you’re not going to read about them here. After all, I need to keep a few secrets of my own!

For this discussion and for the math I’ll show you, the game used is this: Two decks, the dealer hits soft 17, you may double on any first two cards, including after split; split Aces receive only 1 card and surrender is not available, but insurance is. Penetration is at least 70 cards and I’m going to use a $50-$400 bet spread.

I’m also going to assume that one does not leave the table when the count drops; this is a “play all” situation, meaning we sit and play, regardless of the count. I’m going to also assume – and this is critical – that the player uses the Basic Strategy variations I show in Lesson 23 I feel comfortable with a bankroll of $50,000, which would mean that our player should have about $8000 available for a four hour playing session.

Because this is designed for a full-time player who basically has no means of replacing his $$$ through a job or something like that, the risk of ruin (losing it all) must be very low – preferably less than 1%. With a top bet on one hand being $400 (I’ll also show a bet schedule for two hands), a $50,000 bankroll has a risk of ruin of 0.68%. In other words, there’s less than a one in a hundred chance of you losing everything because of “variation” alone. For those of you who have a means of replenishing your bankroll, a total of $25,000 will give you a 10% risk of ruin factor.

The betting schedule for always playing only one hand at a time looks like this:

0 or lower$50
4 or higher$400

You can see that the bet schedule is “$100 times the True Count” other than when it’s lower than 1.I like it because it’s aggressive and easy to remember. In a game like I described above, the player will have a long-term edge of 1.37% and the average bet will be $112.50. This works out to be an expected value of 0.0137 x $112.50 = $1.54 per hand. From here on out, the math is simple; play 60 hands per hour and you’ll make an average of $92.40 per hour. Okay, it’s not $100 per hour, but at a $50 minimum bet table, it’s fair to say that it’ll seldom be full, so there should be no problem in getting at least 75 hands per hour. At that rate, the expected income would be $115+ per hour.

Because such a high-minimum table will seldom be full, the wise player will spread to two hands whenever appropriate. Of course, that’s done only when the count is favorable AND when it doesn’t threaten your “longevity” in the casino. But a lot of high-stakes gamblers (as opposed to advantage players like us) often play two hands to “alter the flow of the cards” and other nonsense like that, so why not look like a gambler from time-to-time? Here’s the betting schedule I recommend for that:

CountOne Hand BetTwo Hand Bet
0 or lower$50
4 or higher$350

With this bet schedule, you’d only go to two hands when the True Count is 2 or more, so there’s no change from the schedule for one hand only at lower counts. I like this because it gives you the flexibility to play two hands if, say, someone leaves the table just as the count goes up or if the “pit critter” all of a sudden isn’t watching you and so forth. This bet schedule ultimately gets more $$$ on the table, yet the top bet is only $350 (on each of two hands), so it’s at least modestly deceiving to casual observers (like the Pitboss). By using this schedule, the player’s long-term edge is upped a bit to 1.55% and the average bet is $135.00 per round of play. This works out to be an expectation of 0.0155 x $135.00 = $2.09 per hand. It does, however, raise the risk of ruin to over 1.5%, so bear that in mind. Also, there is nothing to be gained by playing two hands when alone with the dealer unless the table’s maximum bet is less than $400; this is a technique to use when other players are at the table so you can “eat” the good cards.

As I mentioned earlier, the real problem with all of this is avoiding the old heave-ho. Playing Blackjack like this is going to attract attention in all but the biggest casinos, mainly because you’re almost always playing with $100 chips. The “pit critters” watch the black chips very closely and pay even more attention to consistent winners. While nobody wins all the time, this approach will, on average, see you winning about 70% of all your sessions. But, if it was easy, everybody would be doing it.

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